Saturday, March 10, 2018

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Another novel that has been on my to-be-read list for a very long time.  So much so that now it's out in paperback, and I fully expected to read it while it was in hardcover. Thankfully, Penguin/Random House reached out and asked me to review it as it came out in paperback with new cover art.  

What to say about this novel.  It's so much packed into one epic adventure, and would appeal to anyone with a science background, someone with a love for alternate worlds, or anyone who just wants to read about a man who reinvents himself into a better human being.  That ever elusive time travel question--if we could ever do it, should we?

I've got to admit, it took me a few weeks to read this novel. I had a hard time getting into the first part, where Tom Barren talks about life in a 2016 that is vastly different in terms of technology, but people are pretty much the same.  Tom is a bit of a loser, and not because he didn't ever have chances to make something of his life.  He blames his father, a brilliant scientist, on most of his feelings of worthlessness, and the death of his mother in a crazy accident sets in motion changes that will literally change Tom's world.  Our world.  The future. 

Basically, Tom's father Victor creates a time machine, and Tom is a back up to the number one chrononaut, Penelope.  She's being trained to go back to July 11, 1965, to the exact moment Lionel Goettreider creates a source of energy that ends up changing the world.  A world that Tom lives in, where energy is clean and plentiful, there is no war, everyone has plenty of everything, and everything revolves around being entertained. It's a world where Kurt Vonnegut is embraced as a beloved philosopher. A world where clothing trends are minutes long, not months long. It's a world where books don't exist, because stories are created with your desires, fears, and the outcomes you want--they become personal to each person.  Ugh.  I can't imagine how horrible that would be!  

Tom being Tom, he mucks up the unveiling of the time travel machine big time, and finds himself in 2016, but our 2016.  It's more of a parallel time than going back in time.  He has the same parents, but this time his father is a professor of physics who takes a back seat to Tom's mother, a professor of literature who has become well known in academia.  And he has a sister, Greta, that didn't exist in his 2016.  And Penelope, the woman he fell for, is actually Penny, who owns a bookstore and is kind of like his Penelope, but in all the best ways nothing like Penelope. Follow me?  All of this hinges on what happens the moment Lionel flips the switch on his engine in a laboratory in San Francisco in 1965.  

There's a lot of complex science "stuff" in this novel, and I valiantly tried to follow, but without success.  Enough to understand, and enough to know my brother Dan the scientist would get a kick out of this story. Tom's evolution from a ne'er-do-well to a man who has to make the right choices and save the world is an entertaining one, and I enjoyed reading his journey, and I really loved the supporting characters:  Penny, Victor, Greta, Lionel.  And I'm happy to say I loved the ending, because after all that adventure, Tom deserved a happy conclusion. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  It's not something I would normally read, and I think if I hadn't had the chance to read the paperback, it would have remained on my TBR list for a long time.  I owe a big thanks to Penguin/Random House for sending me a review copy, and changing the trajectory of my reading this year.  I'm fascinated by time travel, and all the ripple effects that could happen if it ever does (or maybe it does?) exist and become something we can actually do. If we could change the past, should we? 

Rating:  4/6 for a delightfully complex novel about time travel, love, family, choices, and finding yourself. Anyone with a science background or a love of science would enjoy this, and I imagine a group of time travel fans having an endless discussion about the possibility of time travel after reading this novel. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio. 

No comments :

Post a Comment